紅景天.Rhodiola rosea

About Rhodiola rosea:

     Rhodiola rosea, also known as rose root, golden root, and arctic root is found naturally in northern regions of Europe, Scandinavia, Lapland, and Alaska. Traditionally, Rhodiola rosea was believed to give strength and stamina, and therefore was commonly used to treat long-term illness and weakness due to infection. Rhodiola has also been a favored ingredient in many folk love potions.    

Rhodiola rosea has long been known as a potent adaptogen. Adaptogens are natural plant substances that increase the body's non-specific resistance, normalize the functions of the body, and are entirely safe (no side effects).  It is believed that adaptogens work by increasing the ability of cells to manufacture and use cell fuel more efficiently.There are many species of Rhodiola, but only Rhodiola rosea has adaptogenic properties.     

Rhodiola rosea has been shown to shorten recover time after prolonged workouts, to increase attention span, memory, strength, and anti-toxic action. Rhodiola rosea extract increases the level of enzymes, RNA, and proteins important to muscle recovery after exhaustive exercise.  It has also been shown to increase the levels of beta-endorphin in blood plasma which helps prevent the hormonal changes indicative of stress.  This effect has also been linked to maintaining an increased cardiac output and subsequently having a cardioprotective effect.Studies using proofreading tests have demonstrated that Rhodiola rosea enhances memorization and concentration ability over prolonged periods.   Finally, Rhodiola has been shown to increase anti-tumor activity by increasing the body's resistance to toxins.     

The effects of stress and mental function is well documented. The release of the hormone cotricotropin releasing factor (CRF) has been postulated as the major regulator of stress. During times of stress CRF leads a release of the catecholamines epinephrine and norepinephrine that alter blood glucose levels and serotonin synthesis. Both have been associated with aberrations in mood and personality. Specific herbs known as adaptogens may impart protective affects to the body; normalizing blood and serotonin levels thus correcting psychological abnormalities.   

Several important compounds have been isolated and identified that have nutritional pharmacological value and include; beta-sistosterol, cinnamic alcohol, rosavidin, gallic acid, salidrozid and other phenolic compounds. Essentially, rhodiola has been extensively studied and used in a variety of clinical settings addressing cardio-protection, enhanced endurance and anti-cancer activity.

   Rhodiola rosea, also known as Golden Root or Arctic Root, offers you a wide variety of important benefits. Stress manifests itself in a variety of ways, including sleep problems, irritability and fatigue. A powerful adaptogen, Rhodiola helps to build up your energy reserves to combat stress and improve your mental and physical performance.    

Due to a combination of psychostimulent and adaptogenic properties, Rhodiola extract has proven to be a valuable therapeutic agent in apparently healthy individuals with a tendency toward fatigue and asthenia (a condition resulting in the loss of strength, decrease in work capacity and memory, increased distractibility, irritability, and headache). In a study using 128 individuals from 17 to 55 years of age who were suffering from asthenic syndrome, 64% reported a decrease or complete disappearance of the clinical manifestations with a coscomitant increase in work productivity. Additional studies have shown that patients that had become asthenic following a bout of influenza showed improvements in intellectual and work load capacity as early as the third to fourth day.    

When investigators administered a 50 mg dose of Rhodiola rosea extract to test subjects they found that the following conditions decreased in severity: general weakness, overexhaustion in the morning, and daytime sleepiness. Side effects were not observed at this dose. Sleep improved during the treatment in the overwhelming majority of patients (67%) who suffered from sleep disturbances. The prescription of Rhodiola in combination with antidepressants in the therapy of depressive states reduces the length of the hospital stay in these patients. This combination showed improvement in clinical outcome while reducing the side effects associated with tricyclic antidepressants. Results of all clinical studies clearly indicate the use of Rhodiola extract in the therapy of patients with depression and provide grounds for the conclusion that Rhodiola exhibits antidepressive properties.    

The roots of the Rhodiola rosea plant have been known as powerful stimulants for centuries and were a favored ingredient in many folk love potions. Subsequent research in the field has confirmed its therapeutic effect in sexual disfunctions. When treated with Rhodiola extract, men suffering from a weak erection, and / or premature ejaculation reported substantial improvement in sexual function. Rhodiola may have implications as a treatment for women suffering from amenorrhea as demonstrated in a study involving 40 test subjects.    

Additional investigations have shown Rhodiola to be a potent suppressor of cancers, inhibiting tumor growth and metastases. Rhodiola rosea may exert its beneficial effects by inhibiting colony-forming activity, and important process in tumor development. Extracts of Rhodiola are powerful antioxidants, protecting against lipid peroxidation that would ultimately lead to pathological damage and possibly cancer formation.       

Rhodiola intake may improve learning and memory skills as demonstrated in a study using animal models. When given a single dose of 0.1ml per rat, learning and memory retention improved. Significant improvement of the long-term memory is also established even 10 days after treatment with Rhodiola extract.

   Rhodiola rosea provides the basis through which people can build up an energy reserve to be tapped when the body needs it most: under extreme physical tension and during recovery form exercise and / or fatigue. Test subjects administered Rhodiola extract rapidly displayed improved indicators of their athletic endeavors and exhibited increased physical work capacity, decreased fatigue, and improved general mental and physical state with a concomitant decrease in recovery time. Functional indicators of physical prowess (pulse, arterial pressure, back muscle strength, hand endurance, and coordination of movement) improved as well. Through extensive experiemnts on swimmers, skiers and other athletes, scientists around the world have reliably demonstrated the value of Rhodiola as an adaptogen, increasing stamina and accelerating recovery processes after physical exertion with no side effects. A study confirmed that the effectiveness of Rhodiola on physical rehabilitative processes may be attributed to a rapid normalization of lactic acid and uric acid during recovery.  

Additionally, a comparison experiment was conducted with commonly known anabolic steroids. The effect of Rhodiola rosea was comparable to that of steroid compounds, yet the former had none of the negative side effects on the adrenal glands. Many other laboratory studies have shown the anabolic effects of Rhodiola, including the capacity to increase body weight by improving muscle-to-fat ratio, to increase hemoglobin and erythrocyte levels, to raise the total level of protein content in the blood, and to reduce the build-up of lactic and uric acid. The proven net result is that the body's muscle-building processes outpace muscle breakdown, leading to greater fitness, endurance, and performance.  

What is the mechanism by which this seemingly miraculous substance works? We know that the body's ability to resist stress is defined by its ability to resist excessive demands placed upon it. This control process is mediated by the sympathetic nervous system and its chemical bullets, the catecholamines (epenephrine and norepinephrine). As we respond to stress, rapid blood shifts occur flooding the muscles. The liver increases its rate of detoxification, while all sorts of protective substances begin to pour out. This response, called "the flight or fight response," is a normal response and played an important role in primitive man when he/she was exposed to lethal dangers. However, in modern society we pay a high price, especially if continuous stresses cause excessive hormone secretion. This may manifest as depression, impaired mental function and decreased physical performance.  

We also know that the sypathetic nervous system is under the control of the hypothalamus, a small but powerful part of our brain. The principal stress hormone secreted by the hypothalamus is adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), which increases resistance to toxins and distress. 

Geographical Distribution and Taxonomy:

While Rhodiola as a genus may have originated in the mountainous regions of Southwest China and the Himalayas,18 botanists have established that various species of the genus Rhodiola naturally display a circumpolar distribution in mountainous regions in the higher latitudes and elevations of the Northern Hemisphere. In Central and Northern Asia, the genus is distributed from the Altai Mountains across Mongolia into many parts of Siberia.19 According to Hegi, its distribution in Europe extends from Iceland and the British Isles across Scandinavia as far south as the Pyrenees, the Alps, the Carpathian Mountains and other mountainous Balkan regions. Several varieties of Rhodiola species have also been identified across Alaska, Canada, and the northern mountains of the continental United States.20 In fact, the world database of botanical literature shows many citations identifying a broad range of species of the genus Rhodiola, in some cases including R. rosea, in many diverse locations in northern latitudes . 

The current taxonomical status of the genus Rhodiola has become quite complex. Before World War II, some taxonomists separated different species of Rhodiola into an independent genus, belonging to the subfamily Sedoidae.20 Then Rhodiola was reclassified as a subgenus of the larger genus Sedum, which contained about 10 species. In 1963 Hegi identified more than 50 species of Rhodiola and re-established them as a separate genus.20 Due to their morphological similarities, they form a distinct Rhodiola group.21 There are still differing opinions among specialists about which new species should or should not be included in the genus Rhodiola. The rationale and defining criteria for the boundaries of the genus remain somewhat controversial. This is not, in itself, necessarily counterproductive, since the acquisition of botanical knowledge inevitably stimulates new understanding and insight, creating the need for revised systems of classification. In the case of R. rosea, however, this taxonomic ambiguity may have unexpected and potentially negative consequences. 

Popularizing a phytomedicinal plant like R. rosea can create confusion when the public is offered a variety of "Rhodiola" products using the general plant family name instead of the full botanical name of the particular species. For example, products called "Rhodiola spp., Tibetan Rhodiola or Indian Rhodiola" may incorrectly imply equivalence with R. rosea extract. Because of significant species-dependent variation in phytochemistry and pharmacology, the use of "Rhodiola" as a general term is inaccurate and misleading. The correct identification of all Rhodiola species according to precise and generally accepted botanical, phytochemical, and genetic taxonomic criteria is not merely an abstract intellectual exercise. It is critical for both scientific and phytopharmacological accuracy, as well as for product labeling for the public. Consumers may need professional guidance to avoid purchasing ineffective brands, particularly those that do not provide full information, including the complete botanical name of the plant species. Companies may change their suppliers over time. Therefore, consumers should periodically check independent sources of product evaluation, as well as requesting information about quality control and content from manufacturers. 

The pharmacological and medicinal properties of Rhodiola are species-dependent phenomena. Of all the Rhodiola species, R. rosea has been the predominant subject of phytochemical, animal, and human studies. compares the research record of R. rosea with all other species of the genus Rhodiola. Approximately  percent of all animal studies and percent of all human studies conducted on plants in the genus Rhodiola are on the species R. rosea. Only R. rosea has passed extensive toxicological studies and has been certified safe for both animals and humans.


The investigation of the phytochemistry of R. rosea root has revealed the presence of six distinct groups of chemical compounds:


l          Phenylpropanoids: rosavin, rosin, rosarin (specific to R. rosea;

l          Phenylethanol derivatives: salidroside (rhodioloside), tyrosol;

l          Flavanoids: rodiolin, rodionin, rodiosin, acetylrodalgin, tricin;

l          Monoterpernes: rosiridol, rosaridin;

l          Triterpenes: daucosterol, beta-sitosterol;

l          Phenolic acids: chlorogenic and hydroxycinnamic, gallic acids.

 The standardization of R. rosea root extracts has gone through two distinct phases. Initially, in the 1970s, the compound responsible for its unique pharmacological properties was believed to be salidroside (rhodioloside). Therefore, the first generation of R. rosea tincture/extracts approved by the Russian Pharmacopoeia Committee was standardized to a minimum of 0.8 percent salidroside content. 

In the late 1980s, demand for R. rosea-based phytomedicines dramatically increased. The wild-crafted raw material was over-harvested, resulting in a steady decline in the quality and effectiveness of "Rhodiola" preparations. Scientific investigation revealed that other species of genus Rhodiola (which also contained salidroside) were being substituted for R. rosea. While some of these mixed batches were highly variable in quality, others had no pharmacological effect. Logically, the suspicion arose that the salidroside standard was inadequate. Based on comparative analysis, the obvious hypothesis was that the original high potency product contained other active compounds specific to R. rosea that had not yet been identified. 

After more than a decade of research, Kurkin and colleagues presented evidence in 1986 that the chemical composition of R. rosea root is, in fact, different from the other species of genus Rhodiola. Using newly developed methods of analysis, Dubichev and colleagues demonstrated that R. rosea root contains three cinnamyl alcohol-vicianosides — rosavin, rosin, and rosarin — that are specific to this species. The term rosavins can be used to include rosavin, rosin, and rosarin (see chemical figures).

It became evident that salidroside is present in all chemically analyzed plants in the genus Rhodiola, and in a wide variety of species outside the genus. The term salidroside is derived from Salix, the genus name for the willows. Salidroside was first isolated. (Salicaceae).Since then it has been detected in Vaccinium vitis-idaea L. (Ericaceae) and in Rhododendron(plants not belonging to the genus Rhodiola) in concentrations that can be higher than levels found in Rhodiola species, including R. rosea. Therefore, salidroside alone is not a useful marker compound for differentiating true R. rosea from other Rhodiola species; nor should it be used as the only marker compound for the standardization of R. rosea root extracts. 

According to the revised 1989 Soviet Pharmacopeia,the extracts of R. rosea — primarily in the form of water/alcohol tinctures or dried root extract — are now standardized for both rosavins and salidroside. Although rosavins are now the accepted marker for genetically pure R. rosea (and its extracts), they are not necessarily the only pharmacologically active ingredients responsible for the efficacy observed in clinical studies. In fact, precise identification of the compounds responsible for the numerous health benefits of R. rosea remains to be confirmed. 

R. rosea extracts used in most human clinical studies were standardized to minimum 3 percent rosavins and 0.8-1 percent salidroside because the naturally occurring ratio of these compounds in R. rosea root is approximately 3:1.

Phytochemistry of Rhodiola rosea: 

The investigation of the phytochemistry of R. rosea root has revealed the presence of six distinct groups of chemical compounds:


l          Phenylpropanoids: rosavin, rosin, rosarin (specific to R. rosea;

l          Phenylethanol derivatives: salidroside (rhodioloside), tyrosol;

l          Flavanoids: rodiolin, rodionin, rodiosin, acetylrodalgin, tricin;

l          Monoterpernes: rosiridol, rosaridin;

l          Triterpenes: daucosterol, beta-sitosterol;

l          Phenolic acids: chlorogenic and hydroxycinnamic, gallic acids.



Administration of rhodosin (extract of R. rosea for intravenous, intramuscular, or peritoneal injection) to sexually mature female mice over a period of 4 weeks prolonged menstruation from 1.3 days (control) to 2.8 days (rhodosin treated), reduced the resting period from 3.8 days (control) to 2.2 days (rhodosin treated), and increased the relative number of estrus days from  percent to 56 percent. In the majority of rhodosin treated animals, the number of growing follicles, the oocyte volumes, the accumulation of RNA in oocyte cytoplasm, the proliferation of the lining and glandular cells of the uterine horns, and the preparation of uterine mucosa for fertilization all increased. In sexually mature mice, rhodosin increased the mean weight of the uterine horns from 39.6+4 mg to 59.5+1.59 mg and the mean weight of the ovaries from 6.4+0.65 mg to 9.1+0.45 mg. However, the administration of rhodosin to sexually immature female white mice for 3 weeks did not affect sexual maturation, the onset of estrus, the weight of ovaries or uterine horns, or the maturation of follicles. Thus, it is probable that the estrogenic effects of R. rosea preparations depend upon a specific hormonal milieu. 

These pre-clinical investigations led to a study of R. rosea extract in women suffering from amenorrhea (loss of menstrual cycles). Forty women with amenorrhea were given R. rosea (either 100 mg R. rosea extract orally twice a day for 2 weeks, or 1 ml rhodosin intramuscularly for 10 days). In some subjects the treatment cycle was repeated 2-4 times. Normal menses were restored in 25 women, 11 of whom became pregnant. In those with normal menses, the mean length of the uterine cavity increased from 5.5 cm to 7.0 cm (normal) after R. rosea treatment.82,83 One of the authors (Dr. Brown) has treated in his practice several women who had failed to conceive with standard fertility drugs, and who become pregnant within several months of beginning R. rosea extract. These preliminary clinical observations warrant controlled follow-up clinical trials. Using the in vitro estrogen receptor competition assay, recently found that R. rosea extract showed strong estrogen binding properties that require further characterization. 

In an open study, 26 out of 35 men with erectile dysfunction and/or premature ejaculation (of 1-20 years duration) responded to R. rosea (150-200 mg/day for 3 months) with substantially improved sexual function, normalization of prostatic fluid, and an increase in 17-ketosteroids in urine.


Rhodiola in the Future: 

More scientific research is needed to confirm the preventive and curative benefits of R. rosea. Controlled studies are warranted to explore its use in antidepressant augmentation, disorders of memory and cognition, attention deficit disorder, traumatic brain injury, Parkinson's disease, protection against arrhythmias, sports performance, aviation and space medicine (enhancing physical and mental performance while reducing stress reactions), endocrine disorders (infertility, premenstrual disorder, menopause), sexual dysfunction, disorders of the stress response system (fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, and post traumatic stress disorder), and enhancement of chemotherapy/radiation with amelioration of toxicity.